Ben Philpott, KUT News | KUOW News and Information

Ben Philpott, KUT News

Ben Philpott covers politics and policy for KUT 90.5 FM. He has been covering state politics and dozens of other topics for the station since 2002. He's been recognized for outstanding radio journalism by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated, the Texas Associated Press Broadcasters and twice by the Houston Press Club as Radio Journalist of the Year. Before moving to Texas, he worked in public radio in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, Ala., and at several television stations in Alabama and Tennessee. Born in New York City and raised in Chattanooga, Tenn., Philpott graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in broadcast journalism.

The rules of a special legislative session are pretty simple: The governor rules. Only the governor can call a special session, and only the governor can set the agenda. That's why it was a little curious when three bills dealing with groundwater popped up in the Texas House on Thursday.

House Speaker Joe Straus has made himself enemy No. 1 among the state’s most conservative voters. His crime? His management style.

State lawmakers are back in Austin to kick off some legislative overtime.

And, as it's been reported over and over and over again, the special session is needed because lawmakers couldn’t pass a bill to keep a handful of state agencies open and operating. That got some of our listeners wondering if lawmakers could’ve spend their time at the Capitol a little more efficiently.

Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a special session of the Texas Legislature to begin July 18.

"Considering all the successes of the 85th legislative session, we should not be where we are today," he said. "A special session was entirely avoidable, and there was plenty of time for the Legislature to forge compromises to avoid the time and taxpayer expense of a special session."

Last week, Texas made national news when state lawmakers got into a shouting match that escalated into shoving and even death threats.

But anger among politicians working at the Texas Capitol had been growing for weeks, and some lay blame for that at the feet of a small group of extremely conservative lawmakers. They call themselves the Texas Freedom Caucus

Texas lawmakers wrap up a very busy week at the Capitol today, and last night had a little bit of everything that you’ll find at the end of a legislative session.

Voters don't like Congress. Only about 40 percent of the country approves of the job the president is doing. And, because of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on elections, people feel like their voices don't count as much as a large campaign donation.

Public radio stations from across the state collaborated on this series looking at the death penalty in Texas – its history, how it has changed, whom it affects and its future. 

UPDATE 10:27 pm: Storms have moved into Austin area. No tornado warnings so far, but the National Weather Service says the storms could contain small hail and 40 mph winds.

The Texas Legislature gaveled in this week, kicking off 140 days of press conferences, hearings, debates and votes on new legislation. But while that action begins to ramp up, another major political pastime is on hold.

Lawmakers are not allowed to raise campaign cash during a legislative session. But that didn't stop the state's top officials from letting potential opponents know how much money they have in the bank.

The 85th session of the Texas Legislature opened Tuesday to lots of pomp, plenty of circumstance and, well, not much else.  

It's just a week until the start of the 85th session of the Texas Legislature. And, while you've probably heard lots of stories about lawmaker priorities for the 140-day session, it's not always about what bills are being debated, but whether the Texas House or Senate is leading the charge.

The University of Texas at Austin announced this morning that head football coach Charlie Strong has been fired. Strong had a few signature wins while at the school, but was not able to put together a winning season. Strong posted a 16-21 record at UT, the longest stretch of losing seasons at the university since 1935 to 1938.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick recently released his top 10 priorities for the 2017 legislative session. And now with several hundred bills filed, we have some glimpses of how he plans to meet his goals.

We all know Texas is a red state. Democrats haven't won a statewide election since 1994, and Republicans have carried the state in every presidential election since 1976.

The question of how that came to be got Gilda Garcia wondering, so she asked TXDecides – our statewide public radio collaborative that's answering Texas voters' questions ahead of Election Day.

"I remember growing up my parents talking about Texas being all Democratic – period," Garcia said. "So what happened?"

In short, it's complicated.

This week, the Tribune's Jay Root and KUT's Ben Philpott taped before a crowd at KLRU's historic studio 6A, former host of the iconic TV show "Austin City Limits."

Join KUT's Ben Philpott and The Texas Tribune's Jay Root for a live recording of their podcast, The Ticket 2016 – 

You've heard it all before. Texas is a red state. Democrats are hoping that shade of red will fade this November as voter registrations increase, but could more voters actually change the outcome? 


It's been two years since the Austin City Council was overhauled from 6 at-large council seats to 10 single member districts - plus the mayor. Now, 5 of those new seats are up for re-election.

This week on the show: KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root spent last week going over a few examples of Donald Trump's rocky road transitioning from GOP Primary Candidate to Republican Nominee.

But Hillary Clinton has had her own stumbles. So this week they'll review how she's doing as she tries to reach out to more than just the Democratic base.

This week on the show: With the party conventions finally over, the Texas Tribune's Jay Root and KUT's Ben Philpott will dive into what the race looks likes as the campaigns really kick off. And what Donald Trump's very, very, VERY bad week could mean moving forward.

Fifty years ago Charles Whitman began a rampage that left 16 dead with dozens injured. Today the University of Texas at Austin will rededicate its memorial to the massacre.

Today's ceremony will take place in the shadow of the Tower at the Tower Gardens memorial site, often called the Turtle Pond.


This week on The Ticket 2016:  KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root check back in with Google Data Editor Simon Rogers on what kind of internet searches are being inspired from the speeches at the DNC in Philadelphia.

This week on The Ticket 2016, KUT's Ben Philpott talks with Google Data Editor Simon Rogers about some of the real-time reactions to the speakers at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Spoiler – searches for "Chachi Loves Trump" spiked Monday night.)

Republicans from across the country have made their way to the national convention in Cleveland. And even though their home state candidate isn’t the nominee, Texans are still set to leave their mark on the festivities. That includes Sen. Ted Cruz, who's snagged a coveted prime-time speaking slot.

    

This week on The Ticket: The Texas Tribune’s Jay Root and KUT’s Ben Philpott check in with UT Austin pollster Jim Henson to see if the national GOP concerns about Donald Trump have trickled down to Republicans in the reliably red state of Texas.

Senator John Cornyn endorsed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in May.  Trump made a swing through Dallas last night – he’s in the Houston area today, but this week Cornyn told reporters in Washington D.C. he’s done talking about his party's nominee until after the November election and he’s not attending Trump’s campaign events in Texas this week.


This week on The Ticket 2016: In the wake of another horrific mass shooting, the Presidential candidates were quick to explain how their administration would help reduce this kind of crime.

To help explain what Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are saying, KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root put two recent campaign speeches under the microscope on another episode of Stump Interrupted.


Donald Trump has consolidated much of the Republican party behind him since he went from frontrunner to expected nominee. But there are still plenty of Republicans here in Texas who aren't ready to support him.


This week on The Ticket 2016: The different faces of the Never Trump movement. While much of the party leadership has gotten behind Donald Trump, there are still plenty of conservative voters who aren't sure what they'll do in November. KUT's Ben Philpott and the Texas Tribune's Jay Root will introduce you to several different representatives of different parts of the GOP to explain their hesitation.

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